The Best Cognitive Enhancers for Memory, Alertness and Energy

With today’s busy world, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that couldn’t do with better cognitive processes and vitality. However, did you know that you could do something about it if you are lagging in those areas? That’s right, and there are several surprisingly easy ways to achieve excellent results and better equilibrium in these aspects. Ahead, we’ll discuss some of the best cognitive enhancers for memory, alertness and energy.

Green Tea

Every day, millions consume caffeine to increase wakefulness, alleviate fatigue, and improve concentration and focus. That being said, all beverages that contain it aren’t created equal when it comes to quantity. For instance, an 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine, whereas colas contain about 34 mg. Energy drinks, however, take the cake, and some top out at a whopping 300+ mg of caffeine a can!  

An 8 oz. serving of green tea, on the other hand, has 35 mg of caffeine so you can get your energy without all the jitters associated with it. Because of its caffeine content, green tea keeps you awake and alert. But it also does more than that because it contains powerful antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage.

Matcha green tea contains the same healthy properties, but it has a higher caffeine content of around 70 mg, roughly the same amount that is in an espresso. No matter which form you decide to get your caffeine fix in, experts recommend not exceeding an intake of more than 400 mg of it a day.

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Culinary Fungi

Medicinal mushrooms can impact your life, and it’s mind-boggling how such a small thing can benefit your brain. In fact, a 2013 clinical study suggest that regular consumption of culinary fungi such as lion’s mane mushroom and certain species of reishi act as cognitive enhancers, since they both promoted nerve and brain health during the trials.

At the end of the 2013 trials, the researchers said that there may be even more fungi that contain chemical agents that have preventative or therapeutic properties. Relatedly, lion’s mane and reishi may be a candidate for the development of functional food that reduce or prevent the severity of age-related dementias. 

Psilocybin

When Dutch graphic designer Dennis van der Meijden was interviewed by STAT, he said that microdoses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, makes him energetic enough to forego his morning cup of coffee. He additionally told the health-oriented news website that he feels “as if I’m kicked in some sort of orbit for that day” when he takes tiny doses of it. 

Other benefits that the microdosing community say they experience when they use this fungal cognitive enhancer include creativity, problem-solving, and the cognitive flexibility that’s essential to both.

Gingko Biloba Extract

The dietary supplement gingko biloba extract (GBE) holds promise as a cognitive enhancer and memory aid, showing positive results in a clinical test performed on healthy 50-61-year-old males. That study that suggested GBE improves working memory (WM) speed and digital span backwards, a popular memory test that measures WM. 

Ginkgo is of particular interest to science because of its potential as an Alzheimer’s disease therapy. While some studies show that it has no effect on AD and as a memory aid, several others have shown that it does help with age-related decline. Ginkgo biloba is routinely prescribed as a therapy in countries such as Germany and France too.

Experts believe that ginkgo works by thinning the blood, which in turn, makes oxygen flow to the brain better. The brain needs oxygen to function effectively, so it’s possible that any hindrance to blood circulation can impact its performance.

Exercise

A study by the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health, indicates that exercise is a natural cognitive enhancer and memory aid. Because of that, you may want to make sure you are getting enough of it before turning to supplements and chemicals for the same effects. 

In addition to boosting your mind, any exercise or physical activity that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing releases endorphins that raise your energy level. Practicing cardiovascular exercises regularly will also strengthen your heart, leading to more stamina and less fatigue.

LSD

LSD, the popular counterculture drug of the 60s, is receiving a hard second look by researchers who believe that the psychedelic holds therapeutic promise in treating PTSD and drug-resistant depression. It’s also received a sort of cult following after Silicon Valley honchos took a few pages from James Fadiman’s book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, a literary piece which extolls the productivity-enhancing virtues of microdosing acid, and took away from it that the practice makes them work better and smarter.

Moreover, white collar biohackers and the psychedelic community alike report the benefits they get from taking miniscule amounts of acid (about a tenth of a recreational dose) include energy, creativity and focus, all of which are desirable traits workers can use to thrive in a stressful and demanding workplaces.

improve creativity

Marijuana

The practice of microdosing is typically associated with psychedelics such as LSD and magic mushrooms, and like with them, microdosing cannabis reportedly gives you all the benefits without all the stoner buzz associated with a recreational dose. Dustin Sulak is an osteopathic physician based in Maine who treats several of his patients with miniscule doses of cannabis. In addition to treating others, Sulak told Leafly that he does it himself on a daily basis saying, “I find that a sub-psychoactive dose of cannabis helps me stay healthy, reduce stress, and stay sharp and focused at work.” 

Unfortunately, taking lower doses of it can actually lead to increased sensitivity to cannabis over time, which can be detrimental to your health & well-being. 

Of the phenomenon, Sulak says, 

“If you are building tolerance to THC, you are building tolerance to your body’s own cannabinoids, which are there for the purpose of promoting balance and health,” 

“So having a highly sensitive endocannabinoid system is extremely valuable for responding to illness, injury, and stress, and people can achieve that with low doses of cannabis,” he added. 

For this reason, it is probably best to work with an expert in a clinical setting when microdosing with marijuana, especially in the beginning.

Water

When thinking of magical fixes for poor memory, alertness and energy, water probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Nevertheless, if you suffer from foggy brain and low energy, dehydration may be the root cause. All of the cells in your body, including brain cells, need water to function optimally. Therefore, if H2O levels are too low, our brain cells don’t function the right way, leading to cognitive problems. 

Even worse, dehydration can heighten dementia risk in older adults. A young woman can drink water and replenish their fluids without much harm if they are dehydrated, but the prolonged cellular stress of dehydrated brain matter may promote pathology and the continued cognitive decline in older women’s brains. In studies, the brains of these dehydrated older adults show increased activation of neurons when they performed cognitively engaging tasks, thus indicating that their brains had to work harder than they usually did. The effect wasn’t as profound in older males, however. 

For the best cognitive vitality, men should down about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids daily; women, on the other hand need about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day.  These recommendations are based on water intake from water itself, food and other beverages.

Omega-3s

There is strong evidence that Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-containing Omega-3 fatty acids may function as a cognitive enhancer. In a study published in the journal Pharmacological Research, research suggests that including plenty of DHA in the diet improves learning, whereas excluding it and having a deficiency of it is detrimental to learning. 

As a supplement, Omega 3s are commonly marketed in capsules containing oil derived from fish such as sardines, salmon, herring and salmon. The brain-boosting properties of DHA are thought to work by assisting brain cells, which are lined with highly concentrated fatty acids, with communicating with one another. In fact, the brain prefers taking up DHA more than other fatty acids. 

Sleep

Sleep is probably the most important factor in preserving memory and clarity of thought during the day. And no brain booster will help you much in the department of cognition and energy if you’re sleep-deprived or getting poor quality of rest. 

To stay away from the walking zombie phase, go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time each morning and limit the time you use your electronics before you go to bed. Additionally, it’s tempting to stay up late and sleep in during the weekend, but stick with the same sleep schedule you use during the week for best results.

Don’t mix drugs that make you sleep, either, and be cautioned that over-the-counter sleeping and allergy pills containing diphenhydramine, heighten dementia risk when taken long-term. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several cognitive enhancers that heighten your memory, alertness and energy. Be mindful that these methods are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways you can biohack your mental performance and energy, though. No matter what you’ve heard or read, it is always important to take care of yourself and talk to your physician and/or dietician about proper nutrition, supplements, medicine (both OTC and prescription) and any new exercise regimens you want to try.

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